Early Results of an Initiative to Assess Exposure to Firearm Violence in Ambulatory Care: Descriptive Analysis of Electronic Health Record Data Journal Articles uri icon

  • Overview
  • Research
  • Identity
  • Additional Document Info
  • View All


  • Background ¬†Current research on firearm violence is largely limited to patients who received care in emergency departments or inpatient acute care settings or who died. This is because standardized disease classification codes for firearm injury only represent bodily trauma. As a result, research on pathways and health impacts of firearm violence is largely limited to people who experienced acute bodily trauma and does not include the estimated millions of individuals who were exposed to firearm violence but did not sustain acute injury. Assessing and collecting data on exposure to firearm violence in ambulatory care settings can expand research and more fully frame the public health issue. Objective The aim of the study is to evaluate the demographic and clinical characteristics of patients who self-reported exposure to firearm violence during a behavioral health visit. Methods This study assessed early data from an initiative implemented in 2022 across a national network of ambulatory behavioral health centers to support trauma-informed care by integrating structured data fields on trauma exposure into an electronic health record behavioral health patient assessment form (SmartForm), as such variables are generally not included in standard outpatient medical records. We calculated descriptive statistics on clinic characteristics, patient demographics, and select clinical conditions among clinics that chose to implement the SmartForm and among patients who reported an exposure to firearm violence. Data on patient counts are limited to positive reports of exposure to firearm violence, and the representativeness of firearm exposure among all patients could not be calculated due to unknown variability in the implementation of the SmartForm. Results There were 323 of 629 (51%) clinics that implemented the SmartForm and reported at least 1 patient exposed to firearm violence. In the first 11 months of implementation, 3165 patients reported a recent or past exposure to firearm violence across the 323 clinics. Among patients reporting exposure, 52.7% (n=1669) were male, 38.8% (n=1229) were Black, 45.7% (n=1445) had posttraumatic stress disorder, 37.5% (n=1186) had a substance abuse disorder (other than nicotine), and 11.7% (n=371) had hypertension. Conclusions Current research on firearm violence using standardized data is limited to acute care settings and death data. Early results from an initiative across a large network of behavioral health clinics demonstrate that a high number of clinics chose to implement the SmartForm, resulting in thousands of patients reporting exposure to firearm violence. This study demonstrates that collecting standardized data on firearm violence exposure in ambulatory care settings is feasible. This study further demonstrates that resultant data from ambulatory settings can be used for meaningful analysis in describing populations affected by firearm violence. The results of this study hold promise for further collection of structured data on exposure to firearm violence in ambulatory settings.


  • Cook, Nicole
  • Hoopes, Megan
  • Biel, Frances M
  • Cartwright, Natalie
  • Gordon, Michelle
  • Sills, Marion

publication date

  • February 5, 2024